Welcome back everyone
Hope it's good day for you
Welcome back everyone
Hope it's good day for you
I don’t think I’ve ever wished I was in Ankara, Turkey.
At events like these, there’s always one game you can’t miss and tonight the one we’ve all been waiting for takes place.
Turkey vs. Greece and if you don’t think that’s going to be an emotional night, you’re not quite up on your history of these parts.
Short story: They fought a war right here in Izmir from 1919-1922 and to say there are some hard feelings to this day is a pretty large understatement.
No matter what anyone says publicly – and it’s all be sweetness and light in the days leading up to tonight’s game – there were be a level of intensity at that game likely unmatched in this tournament.
It what makes things like this so, so good and so hard to explain unless you’ve been to one. There’s almost a tension in the air that you can feel and I can only imagine what it’ll be like in that arena.
And given that Monday was Victory Day, a national holiday to commemorate the final battle in that Turkish War of Independence in 1922 just makes it more juicy.
Big, big day here in Group D, that’s for sure.
As I kind of laid out in this piece, Canada not only has to win but has to get some help.
And the Spain-Lithuania game to end the day will be a good test for my tournament favourites. There’s no doubt they played with less than 100 per cent intensity against France the other day, but if they don’t go all out against Lithuania, they’ll lose for sure and that will get them a much tougher trip through the playoff round in all likelihood.
Okay, we may as well start the whole process of gathering mail, although I have no idea what day on the weekend it’ll get up.
Why just down the street there’s a McDonald’s that will take your phone orders and deliver, I’m told (no, I have not stooped that low by any stretch of the imagination) and there’s Burger King a couple of doors away (no, haven’t been there, either).
And then there are the knock-offs. Like the one you see here.
(And you can only imagine how proud I am that I had the technological savvy to make this work).
We’re sitting at some café on some street on a scorching afternoon (don’t think it’s been below 40 a day since I got here and the humidity’s about 150 per cent, it seems) and the TV’s on inside.
And what do the eyes behold:
Slovenia-Croatia in a humdinger of a game.
I think at one point the teams combined to make about six three-pointers on six straight possessions, it was wil
But it was also like a trip back in time.
There’s The Gangster (on the court, not stretching at the scorers table) and Uros Slokar for Slovenia and Roko Ukic for Croatia and the mind was racing with memories of guys who’ve sat the end of the Raptors bench.
But toss in Bostjan Nachbar and Goran Dragic with Slovenia and Zoran Planinic with Croatia and it was like some Baltic Balkan NBA showcase.
All we needed was Rasho and it would have been a dream game.
Anyone catch USA-Brazil anywhere on TV yesterday?
Great game all around, the Americans win by two when Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas missed two free throws with three seconds left; the second one intentionally and Brazil got the rebound but Leandro Barbosa couldn’t convert a tough inside shot at the buzzer.
As My Man Sheridan points out in this piece a loss wouldn’t have been devastating to the Americans and he thinks maybe some good will come out of being tested so hard.
I wonder about that.
I think a lot of teams now – Spain, Greece, Argentina, Turkey and Brazil for sure – are gaining all kinds of confidence seeing the Americans being stretched out in games like the one against Brazil and the exhibition in Spain 10 days ago.
I know in the short-sighted North American view of things (or maybe it’s just the short-sighted United States view of things) there is some kind of awe associated with the spectre of some big, bad NBA star-laden roster.
But, trust me, that view is not held around the world a whole bunch of players and teams in this tournament see the United States as just another team that can lose at any time.
And that’s going to make the playoff round tremendous.
Right, the Izmir International Fair?
Think the CNE without trash or tackiness.
A huge park in the middle of the city, palm tree-lined avenues, a man-made lake with paddle boats, exhibition halls filled with the stuff you’d see at any trade fair but also with historical displays of Turkey’s past.
Sure, there’s a midway with rides and such but it was kind of tranquil. No hawkers yelling, no stupid games of (no) chance, no overwhelming noise.
Very, very cool and a perfect way to kill a couple of hours of an off-day.
Here’s a little tit-for-tat.
And some NBA news, such that it is.
I notice the Phoenix Suns have signed none other than Dwayne Jones, the guy they traded to Toronto in the Leandro Barbosa-Hedo Turkoglu transaction.
The Raptors waived him, of course, in part because they didn’t want to guarantee his contract and mostly because there was no room for him on the roster.
But by taking him in the trade, it allowed the Raps to have a big bigger trade exception that they ultimately used to get David Andersen from Houston. And now Phoenix gets a guy back they never really wanted to lose anyway.
Hey, don’t forget to check back here about 11:30 eastern time for Canada-France and the in-game blog thingy.
Might be a good one.
Okay, I guess if you’re trying to find silver linings over here, we did see some improvement day-to-day in Canada’s, um, mental toughness, and that is no small step.
Yes, they still lost to Lithuania, a team that on talent alone would look to be vastly superior to Canada, but the way they finished the game has to be a bit heartening. And the way they played about 36 minutes of it was as good as I’ve seen them play.
After blowing that huge lead, they could have easily folded their tents and lost by a dozen but they hung tough the entire fourth quarter, played smart for the most part and well for almost the entire 10 minutes and it was a game they could have had.
Now, blowing a 17-point lead speaks to a huge lack of experience and the ability to calm things down, and trying to steal four crucial minutes with backups was, as I mentioned in the gamer, a gamble that didn’t work but I know most of the people connected with the team were far happier after that game than they were about the Lebanon one.
Still, the road to the second round is bumpy and, as best we can figure it out (and you know me and mathematical permutations) this has to happen: Canada MUST beat both France and New Zealand and New Zealand has to beat Lebanon to leave all three teams with one victory. Even then, it goes to points differential so it’s impossible to predict for certain.
And, Lithuania has to beat France and Lebanon as well.
That’s conceding that Spain won’t lose again and I’m pretty sure that’s a safe assumption.
Anyway, that’s where we think we are over here.
Now, other stuff …
So we’re sitting on this patio deconstructing the day with a gaggle of Canadians at the team hotel, which is a luxuriously appointed joint a short walk from where the media is housed.
Seems all the teams are staying at this place, it was late Sunday night and here comes Spain after their win over New Zealand.
Of course, I had to walk in to intercept the one guy I know as he wandered through the lobby and I can dutifully report Garbo is doing well.
Had a nice little chat for a few minutes, no real “news” but just catching up and, yes, he and his teammates were disappointed about the way they played against France the other night but, yes, they still feel pretty confident.
The think about running into Garbo somewhere in the world – the last time it happened for me was in Beijing – is that he seems genuinely happy to see a familiar face.
It’s been two years, but he was asking about family and guys back in Toronto (hi, Ray Chow!) and got to reminiscing about all kinds of things.
He is one of the good guys in the game and I still contend the Raptors were too cautious with him and his leg; and that seems to be an opinion that’s been shown to be true since he’s played at a high level ever since they thought here he couldn’t play.
I’m not sure he’s got an NBA game today but he sure would have had one the last couple of years.
Anyway, it was good to see him and good to find out he’s doing well.
As an entire aside, I read somewhere that Kobe Bryant expressed undying loyalty to the Lakers on the weekend and said he’s “99.99 per cent” sure he’ll finish his career with the team.
If he’d played in Toronto I’m sure I would have received at least one e-mail that said: “See, I knew he was leaving.”
I’m sure you all raced breathlessly to your computers or newspapers to read this, right? (Seriously, I’m sure you did!)
Anyway, the first time I really got to experience the whole Lithuania basketball phenomenon was back in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics, when the recently-independent country made its debut on the international stage.
I was floored and ever since, it’s been a constant at every international event I’ve been at.
I’m not sure I can adequately explain the passion or fun they have, with their drums and chants and cheers.
And with a few thousand of them in the Halkapinar Arena, a somewhat smallish place where the fans are right on top of you, I can only add one thing: Thank goodness FIBA banned vuvuzelas.
I tell you, you have not seen television until you’ve seen a decades-old McGyver dubbed into Turkish.
I need to unplug that contraption and listen to music or something while I work.
Oh, remember yesterday’s security note (and forgive the metal/medal faux pas, my mind was obviously not working right)?
Well, it seems that if you show up at the place two days in a row and the same crew of young volunteers is working, you can get special access right past the second detector and the X-ray machine if the young woman recognizes you.
She did, I guess I look trustworthy because every time I walked through after various trips outside for fresh air, got waved right past the detector and back into the gym.
The word I’m getting from people over in Istanbul has to be heartening to Raptor fans since Leandro Barbosa is apparently looking really good for Brazil.
But I’m going to wait a few days to get more information because while it’s all well and good that he’s played well and Brazil’s won twice, they’ve beaten Iran and Tunisia and still have the United States, Slovenia and Croatia to go.
We’ll see how he does in those games.
Wonder how much things cost here?
(Boss, stop reading, the expense forms will be accurate).
Well, it seems to depend.
I have a nice meal the other night of a local grilled spiced meat with rice and salad and the omnipresent tomatoes and cucumbers for about 18 Turkish Lira (and that’s the currency, they kind of blanche at the sight of Euros) and the Efes was about 8 TL.
But then last night, at the swank team hotel, the drinks were about 12 TL and a very good toasted sandwich of a Turkish cheese and a spicy salami-like meat was about 20 TL on its own.
Guess I need to keep in the lower level of life, right Mr. Money Man back home?
As you well know, it’s an off-day here today (and it’s already 12:30 p.m. so half of it’s gone) and I guess it’s time to explore. I’m thinking the local bazaar and – get this – the Izmir International Fair is on just down the street from our hotel and I’m told it’s the best in the country.
It’s more trade fair than the Ex and I’ve seen the picturesque grounds from a bus passing by so wish me luck.
Oh, and yes, I will find time to write something about, you know, this tournament.
Welcome back, hearty souls.
Here we go again
A whole lot of this and that in the early morning hours back home while I head out to see what the Sunday mornings are like in whatever part of Izmir I’m in.
What now, Canada? Well, the chance of advancing past the first round of the world championships are not dead, but they are on life support and someone somewhere is checking out the living will to see when to pull the plug.
Well, because this is a young team that looked at times overwhelmed when the Lebanon game was in the balance and I, for one, am not surprised at all.
There isn’t an “old head” on the team, a guy to calm everyone down when things are becoming unraveled; everyone knew it coming in (even if few said it out loud) and it kind of jumped up and bit Canada on the bum.
So be it.
As I mentioned in this story for the website and paper, in the long run this group will likely be better off for what transpired.
I know that’s of no consolation to the players and the coaches – or even a lot of fans – but it’s a fact, pure and simple. This appearance was about learning and growing and dealing with things and they are. Not well yesterday, mind you, but they are and, eventually, it’s going to help.
Now, can they still advance?
There’s been enough wacky stuff at enough tournaments I’ve been at that I can safely say this: I have no idea.
I’m dubious, quite dubious as a matter of fact, about their chances but you’ve got to play the games to see what happens and that’s what they’ll do.
Hey, the Aegean is blue and nice and pretty from a distance and all that but when you’re riding in cab back from the arena about 11 at night and cruise past the port area of the city, you can sure get a whiff of the, um, freshness of the marine life around these parts.
Kind of wakes a fella up and runs counter to the charm of this city of about 3 million, with its small, tree-lined avenues and old time European feel.
It’s always a hoot at these things to see what the security situation is like.
It’s been my experience that the institutionalized security paranoia that’s sweeping the world runs amok when it’s a small group of untrained volunteers doing the checking at the doors.
No difference here, that’s for sure.
The first thing you see when you walk into Halkapinar Arena here is a metal detector and a rather stern looking teenage volunteer standing next to it.
And then you walk through carrying all your goods – it’s no more than two paces in the door with nowhere to drop a bag or empty pockets – and it lets out the incessant beat that those things emit.
Um, wouldn’t that mean someone should pay attention?
Young Security Lad barely looks up as the thing beeps and chimes and buzzes every time anyone walks through.
Guess it’s a practice site for the real security check, which is no more than 20 steps up the hall.
There, they have an X-ray machine and a handful of guards – still teens but tougher looking teens -- around a metal detector holding wands. Now, they mean business, right? Um, no. Not so much.
Yes, I did see a couple of people wanded but I walked through at least 10 times over the course of nine hours in the gym, set the thing off just about every single time and not once did anyone stop me, look at me, or seem bothered in the least.
Man, did I feel safe.
Of course, it’s also my experience at these events that things can change overnight and I fully expect at some time to be greeted by gun-toting army officers. That’ll be fun.
Did you know you can get fresh air in your hotel room in Izmir?
Civilized, I tell ya.
One question I have to ask my friends from Turkey when I run into them later today is:
What in the heck did Ricky Rubio ever do to tick so many people off?
Now, he didn’t get the (boring) Vince Carter-in-Toronto treatment and there were more than a few French fans in the building when Spain played France on Saturday night but the scorn heaped down on the kid was really something.
Whistles, catcalls and boos every time he touched the ball in France’s shocking win and I don’t know if it got to him but in the chunks of the game I saw, he was quite ordinary.
Just so you know …
The Chicken here is a cat who thinks it’s a dog who loves doing tricks and goofing around and likes to fetch things and has one green eye and one blue one.
Oh, and he/she/it is really fond of, you know, mischief, the silly Chicken/Cat/Dog.
Yes, that is code and you can learn all about it here.
No one – no one! – got the Spongebob Squarepants/David Hasselhoff reference here yesterday.
So this is why this tournament, even in its early stages, can be so good.
France 72, Spain 66.
I still think Spain’s one of the best teams here – if they’re not on the medal podium two weeks from today I’ll be shocked – but the result just goes to show that, really, anything can happen.
Now, I saw France play in person and, let me tell you, the team that was on the court Saturday night bore no resemblance to the one that played Canada in Toronto and that should serve as a huge reminder that most of what goes on before a big global basketball tournament should always be taken with a grain of salt.
But closer to home the result does really mess up Group D and Canada’s chances of advancing to the round of 16.
With the loss to Lebanon, Canada is probably going to need some help to get through and France stumbling was something they had to be hoping for.
I’ve always thought it was going to take two wins for Canada to go through and that it wasn’t going to be easy. I also thought that two wins might only get them into some kind of multi-team tie for the final two spots and I had France as a team that might have only had two victories and be in that group as well.
But having stolen one against the top team, France in the driver’s seat to advance. And tell me who’d have thought that after they lost twice to Canada in Toronto?
So they announced the attendance at the Canada-Lebanon game at 5,500 and that seems about right in the 10,000-seat arena. It was a decidedly pro-Lebanon crowd, likely because of the couple hundred or so flag-waving, chanting fans from there who took over one entire section.
Canada? There had to be a dozen, maybe two dozen, hardcore fans.
Well, well, well.
What do we have here?
So a guy wakes up, throws open the curtains, sees crystal blue skies with a soft breeze and can look out the window and off in the distance see the Aegean?
Yeah, sometimes life doesn’t bite at all.
Anyway since it’s only been a few hours, it seems, since the last missive and there’s really been no basketball news, we’ll be all over the map this morning until I can get to the gym and see some action.
Don’t forget, we’re going to try an in-game blog this morning (be here about 11:15 Eastern time if you like) to see if it works logistically for me and you.
Well, mostly me.
We were sitting at dinner with some Canada Basketball folks – a nice outdoor patio with ice cold Efes Pilsen and a really good grilled meat dish, thank you very much – when we were trying to handicap the group here.
And, you know, it’s impossible, really.
Is France ready to play and in shape? What’s Lithuania really got?
Lebanon can surprise some people and New Zealand can physically beat you into submission.
Canada? An absolute unknown. I don’t think anyone really has any clue how these kids are going to handle this.
So what we came up with was one of the wildest scenarios imaginable and it could very well happen.
Spain’s going to go 5-0, of that there is no real doubt in my mind. They are that far above everyone else here that I can’t see them challenged, let alone losing.
Anyway, what if they go 5-9 and the other five teams are all 2-3?
Possible? For sure. No question about it.
And that will present some wacky, wacky tiebreakers involving points differential and head-to-head and will cause the abacus to blow up, I’m sure.
So because it’s the most confusing thing possible, that’s precisely what will happen.
I am entirely interested to see what kind of crowds these games here might draw. I’m pretty sure there’s not a huge ex-pat Spanish or Kiwi or Lithuanian or Lebonese population here and I think I can probably count all the Canadian fans in Izmir on my fingers and toes.
The gym seats about 10,000, I’m told and I wonder if it’ll be half full for any of the games.
I do recall being tremendously surprised at the very first world championship game I ever covered, though, and it gave me a true glimpse of how far-reaching and emotional this championship can be
It was 1994, I was working at Canadian Press and wandered down the QEW to see Croatia-Cuba open the worlds at Copps in Hamilton.
Expecting a handful of fans more curious than anything, I was stunned to a few thousand rabid Croatian supporters waving flags and screaming their lungs out and it was very, very cool. Croatia killed them, as I recall.
Hope it’s like that here, but I have my doubts.
This is the first time I will have spent any time in a predominantly Muslim country and I have to tell you, the call to prayers I heard a couple of times yesterday – and will hear five times a day, I’m told – was quite cool.
I don’t profess to have any great knowledge of the religion and trying to discover some things about it during the time here in Turkey will be something near the top of the list.
For now? I’ll get used to the noise.
I’m told by someone I trust that Jose Calderon is not here in Izmir with the Spanish national team; he’s back home with his wife and newborn son and it’s doubtful he’ll get here for the first round of the tournament.
Too bad, it would have been nice to catch up but, if I’m him, I’d rather stay at home for a week and maybe meet up with the team for the playoff round in Istanbul that starts next weekend.
Who knows, though, he could arrive and then we’d have another story to do but for right now, that looks doubtful.
You know you’re at a world championships and not the NBA Finals when you get on the elevator to go down to breakfast and you see a couple of distantly familiar faces.
And they turn out to be a guy from New Zealand and a guy from Greece you run into every couple of years. No idea about names – they weren’t wearing their credentials that are like those “Hello, my name is …” tags sported by conventioneers – but it was different from an NBA gig where you might meet a guy from Washington and one from Denver that you see five or six times a season.
Oh, my Great Deity That You Worship!
Even from half a world away I can find out DWTS stuff (hello, Super Wife!) and you’ve got to read this!
Not sure that’s the best career move he’s ever made; I don’t know that the fellas from Oz would approve.
And David Hasselhoff? Yikes. What would Spongebob Squarepants say? (If you get that one, good on ya!)
Anyway, we’ll dissect it more when it’s official on Monday but I’m not sure about this lineup.
The trouble with this specific version of this tournament, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, is that it’s so spread out. The first round games are in four distant cities so I can only see three games a day in person; and I’m sure there’ll be days when it’s only two because of some kind of basketball overload.
Too bad, though, because today, I’d really like to see Russia-Puerto Rico because that’s a hugely important game in Group C (those two teams should fight with China for seeding behind Turkey and Greece and that’s the crossover group for Canada’s Group D) but, alas, it’s over in Ankara.
And I have no clue where Kayseri is but I’d like to be there to see Germany-Argentina. The Germans are one of the great unknowns of the tournament – they could be very good – and Argentina is, well, Argentina and always fun to watch.
Guess it’ll take some e-mails and phone calls to spies and friends at those games to get the lowdown.
Usually these affairs, there are a couple of arenas within a short distance of one another (The SkyDome and Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in ’94; I can’t remember the two gyms they used in Greece in 1998 but one was in Piraeus at the port and the other was a short ride away at the Olympic stadium and the used Conseco and the Dome in Indy in 2002.
All right, it’s mid-day here, some of you are still sleeping, I presume, so I’m going on a walkabout to see what fun and interesting things I can find to report.
All right, let’s get this out of the way while you’re sleeping so I can get to the stuff from the worlds. Going to be a busy week with games every day so we’ll do this as an added bonus and sill do the normal stuff.
Q: I know you hate to speculate, but: What if the USA doesn't win the World Championships and thus is deprived of the automatic qualifier for the Olympics AND as expected on July 1, 2011, the NBA locks out the players? Obviously, the ex-Redeem Teamers CAN play if they want to, but will there be insurance for them to play in the Olympic qualifier which I assume is next August? Will they actually be allowed to play? Will we see a return of the elite NCAA players? Clearly not a single question, but I would appreciate your thoughts.
Jay S, Thornhill
A: If that case presents itself, and it very well could, I don’t think you’ll see a single NBA player on the American team next year; you’ll see D Leaguers and guys from Europe and collegians who won’t yet be drafted. That’s exactly what we saw at the 1998 worlds in Athens, also during a lockout, when the Americans finished third.
Q: Is the rift between Cox and Griffin personal? Or is it a professional rift where at the end of the day they'll go sit around at a bar and watch whatever sport is on during that time of year and enjoy a beer together? I know it's not basketball related and i know it's probably not 'mailbag' worthy but your thoughts would be appreciated.
Justin S, Sudbury
P.S. I'm just worried that the workplace may become too toxic for you and that you will leave and not provide the blog i read every day. Thanks
A: I don’t think it’s personal at all. And I don’t think it’s going to have any lasting impact on whatever relationship they may have.
We’re all grown men in this gig – or a least we’re supposed to be – and taking the good with the bad is what we do. Or are supposed to do.
Q: Thanks Doug for your persistent blogging of Raps news and for just giving us fans a good read DAILY. Maybe you could convince Mr. Griffin to frequent his blog more often too. Anyway I was wondering why the NBA season opens during winter? The NHL opens in winter since hockey is traditionally played in winter on ice. Same goes for baseball. Usually played on a nice grass field, season opens in spring. Is this just a money thing, or is there a reason why NBA basketball and NFL football is played during winter? Is this maybe because people need something good to watch other than hockey during winter? Just wondering because winter weather in Toronto is mentioned as one of the reasons why it is difficult for us to lure players to our team
Kentaro H, Toronto
A: The easiest answer I have for you is that my good friend Dr. Naismith invented the game as a way to keep guys in shape for the summer and it’s always been played in the winter.
Q: Hey Doug. Some of your faithful readers are not cranky. Any thoughts after having watched Klieza vs USA? He reminded me of a more team oriented version of Delfino, but a more natural fit on the wing. Also, will Barbosa mostly play SG if the two PGs are kept?
Matt B, Ottawa
A: I didn’t see enough of the Lithuania game to really form much of an opinion but I’ll get a really good look at him on the weekend when I see Lithuania in Turkey.
Barbosa? Every indication I get from anyone I talk to is that the see him primarily as a two-guard.
Q: Hi Doug! Happy Travels! I agree with your assessment of Jose - but I have to ask, are you not the least bit suspicious around the Spanish team's diagnosis of his injury?
Given the Spanish teams medical team history with us - you know what I mean - I don't lend much credence to their "4 week" assessment. The injury is not the end of the world - but given the repeated nature of this injury, my bet is that the Raps medical staff brings him back a lot more slowly than the "he tore a muscle but he should be all good in a month" diagnosis that the Spanish (please don't make us liable on insurance) medical team ... :-)
Be interested in your 2 cents on the topic - as I am sure you can tell, I am still not over the Garbo debacle!
Vic A, Toronto
A: I know there were issues of health in the past involving the Raptors and Spanish officials but that went the other way: Spain cleared Garbo to play and the Raptors fought it. I don’t know that there’s a connection to this one and will only point out that Toronto’s medical staff is, um, quite careful when it comes to clearing injured players to return. And given that not only will Jose likely be ready for camp but that there’s a month between then and the start of the season, I don’t see any reason anyone would rush anything more than they should.
And having seen Garbo play a handful of times at the Olympics in person and dozens of times on television as well, I tend to side with the Spanish in his situation.
Welcome from Izmir, a city of about 3 million right next to the Aegean that sprawls forever, it seems.
Oh, and it’s 40 C and humid but that’s okay; the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel room will do until I get this done and then it’s time to explore
So a fella spends about a total of 18 hours traveling and it kind of pays off with – get this! – some news.
Ran into some Canada Basketball folks on the final leg of the journey and they report some very good financial news.
Seems Bell Canada is coming on as a major sponsor – you’ll see the company name on the jerseys when the team plays tomorrow – and that’s huge news.
It’s a multi-year deal that’s “very lucrative” according to the poohbah I spoke to and covers both the men’s and the women’s teams, which is significant.
I’ve been saying all along that organization seems headed in the right direction and some smart company would jump at the chance to get on board early.
It’s welcome news and even though I have issues with Bell (don’t get Super Wife and her cellphone plan started!), it’s good they’re ponying up some cash.
Speaking of Canada – and this is more news after a long slog to get here – they’ve finalized the roster and made what I think are some wise decisions.
They decided to cut point guard Tyler Kepkay and forward Kyle Landry, which means they’ll have both the young kids Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre and guard Andy Rautins on the 12-man roster that cannot now be changed.
Kepkay barely played and the thinking was that they’d maybe get more out of Rautins later in the week if his knee improves than they’d get from keeping the veteran point guard around.
But the experience that Olynyk and Sacre will get is immeasurable and it’s a wise, wise move to keep them.
Random travel question:
Why do the people who run Pearson – and, yes, I’m talking to you GTAA! – not get it at all?
Don’t they realize that, oh, every day there are a plethora of overseas flights that leave, you know, late in the afternoon.
Wouldn’t these brainiacs think to schedule more that three lanes of security checks – one reserved exclusively for big whigs – open while they manage to leave at least two closed? Honestly, do they not think? Or walk by the check-in at various times in a day to see when it’s at maximum use and needs maximum staffing?
It is, without doubt, one of the least-efficiently run airports in the history of aviation. End o’ rant.
By the way, I can fully recommend The Pursuit Of Happyness as a fine flick. Sad and emotional at times – nearly brought a tear to my eye during the Toronto-Frankfurt stretch of the journey and that might have been embarrassing.
But still, a darn good flick.
Toss episodes of 30 Rock and Entourage and it sure made an eight-hour flight go a lot quicker than usual.
This gets to an earlier issue and gives up a dip into the mail:
Q: Quick question regarding any sort of code of conduct that NBA players are expected to adhere to. Is there the potential that the brawl that occurred in the FIBA game a few days ago will net Nenad Krstic some NBA penalties? Surely, the NBA doesn't wish to have its players taking part in public games and be throwing chairs at people; even if they're not NBA games.
Matthew G, Toronto
A: No, the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured in the NBA and because of the working relationship they’ve struck with FIBA, there is nothing the NBA can do. It can be upset, as I’m sure it was at the sight of one of its players throwing a chair during a wild brawl but there will be no repercussions to Krstic from the NBA. There can’t be.
Okay, I have to say the final leg of the journey – about three hours from Munich to Izmir to cap something like 18 hours from home to the Kaya Prestige hotel – was utterly marred by the incessant crying of a babe in arms.
Yes, I know, parents must travel and kids might not to like to fly but it doesn’t mean I have to like it, does it?
I’m sure this makes me an even more crotchety old codger but, “no kids” flights might not be a bad idea.
I presume you saw the suspensions handed down by FIBA to Serbia’s Nenad Krstic (three games) and Milo Teodisic (two games) and Greece’s Antonis Fotsis (two games) and Sokoklis Schortsanitis (two games) for their part in that wild brawl a week or so ago.
Much hue and cry from both federations, who are whining about the length of time it took FIBA to hand down the banishments, which begin Saturday at the start of the worlds.
My advice to them: Shut up. It was glaringly apparent when the fight started and the chairs went flying that some repercussions had to come, they should be thankful they weren’t banned for longer.
You know, I’ve just flipped through the dial and there’s not a single repeat of a Law And Order or a CSI Somewhere or Another anywhere on TV.
More random travel stuff then I’ve got to go write for the paper and website and get out and see some of this city since it’s Friday evening already.
Munich airport? Out-freaking-standing. Spacious, all kinds of shops and restaurants, easy to navigate.
Frankfurt? Not so much, under construction, confusing and dingy.
Izmir? Well, the volunteers who are helping run the shuttles from the airport to the downtown digs could not have been more helpful or earnest and that bodes well for the next week.
Speaking of the next week, I better go figure out precisely what I’m going to do with it. Presume I’ll be back at the regular time tomorrow but with trips like this and seven-hour time differences, you never know.
Okay, who wins in Turkey?
That’s a great question.
And, after careful consideration, and I’m talking minutes if not half hours I’ve spent carefully deconstructing all the rosters and the playoff permutations and what have you, I’ve come up with this:
I have no real idea.
But I’m going to go with this, simply because of a gut feeling and a wee bit of experience having seen some of these teams.
I like Spain over Brazil in the gold medal game and the United States over Greece for bronze.
I’m not entirely sure why, except that Spain has tremendous guard play and vast experience, Brazil’s big and old and has a coach now – Ruben Magnano, ex of Argentina – who should keep them focused.
I fear a lack of size and big international game experience will ultimately be the undoing of the Americans, who should get Spain in the semifinals. Greece? Well, you can throw a blanket over them and Argentina as the fourth best team there, I think, so I’m not dead certain on that selection.
I will tell you this, though: There will be some great games and some intensity you seldom see. I fully expect a couple or three “events” to pop up – not as big as the Serbia-Greece brawl but some hostilities – and the playoff rounds will be exceptional. The always are.
The thing I don’t like is how spread out it is, the three previous ones I’ve covered have all be so close together you could see every team in the preliminary round if you wanted, that’s not going to be the case in Turkey, which is too bad for me because there are usually some excellent first-round games to watch.
Anyway, clip and save this and tell me what a dolt I am on Sept. 13 if you like but what the heck, now you know the feeling from here.
He had no comment when I spoke electronically with him overnight but I’m told that’s just because the final paperwork hadn’t been completed and that was just some routine work.
It really is a tremendous story, 39-year-old guy who left Nigeria as a teen to chase a dream becomes an NBA general manager and an accomplishment that really does show you can get what you want through hard work and perseverance.
I remember the first time we talked, he’d just been hired by the Raptors and we had some friends and experiences in common in the international game. He told me then he didn’t know what the career path would be for certain but that he wanted to work hard, help develop the game in his country and in Africa and just to see where that took him.
Well, I’d say it’s taken him pretty far.
I know there have to be thousands of young players that Masai’s come to know and help over the years who are entirely proud today that a guy rose from such humble beginnings to such lofty heights.
They should be.
Quick dip into the mail.
Q: Hello Doug. Seeing as your going overseas, what sorts of basketball-gameday-related stuff would you like to bring back with you and put it in to NBA games? For e.g., I think I remember once reading you liked the chanting in the stands. Would you mind the occasional flare or two at an NBA game? How about the common area with the barricade separating players and reporters - are you a fan of that? Anything else you'd like to bring back to enhance your or the common fan's (including us that watch on TV's) experience?
Have fun out there!
Manny L, Winnipeg
A: No, I don’t mind the chanting at all, a little singsong can liven up a sports event now that I think of it.
What I particularly like about international basketball is the lack of “stuff” because it’s usually about the game. There is no music blaring during the actual playing of the game, there are no PA announcers screaming and there are no “contests” during timeouts. Sure, there are European versions of June Taylor Dancers but why not?
A flare? Um, no. I’d fear for them being thrown on court, at a player or, egads!, at press row.
Another thing I don’t like about European basketball are the neon advertising signs that ring the court like boards. Too intrusive and while I’m not sure they’ll have them at the worlds, that’s the one biggest TV difference you’ll notice if they do.
As for the barricade, it’s in what’s known as the “mixed zone” which is the only post-game interview area that all the players must go through and, trust me, in the crush of the crowd at some of those games, they are absolutely needed. Let’s say that some of my brethren from around the world can get rather, um, aggressive and emotional when conducting interviews. I’ve only seen one or 100 “reporters” reach over those barricades to hug a player after a significant win.
So, I’m told Andrea Bargnani is killing in the European qualifier he’s playing in with Italy these days. I say “I’m told” because I haven’t been paying all that close attention for one reason:
It really doesn’t matter and certainly doesn’t tell me much.
With no disrespect to the emerging basketball, um, powers of Finland and Montenegro and Israel and whoever else is in it, they are still Finland, Montenegro and Israel and whoever and it’s not numbers that I care about with Bargnani at all.
I guess the biggest thing he needed to do this summer, in my opinion, was the play games and continue to develop the on-court intuition – especially defensively – that had been lacking.
The fact he’s getting 25 and 12 or whatever it is should be of little importance, if a five-year NBA vet wasn’t getting those numbers against teams like that, that would be something to notice.
So, good on Andrea for playing and putting up numbers but to suggest it will translate into NBA points and rebounds is folly.
All right. Here’s the drill on what we hope is going to happen around these parts the next little while seeing how it’s a seven-hour time difference and the Lewis and Clark travel schedule has me leaving Toronto about 6:30 and getting to Izmir about 4 o’clock Friday afternoon their time.
Until I get the lay of the land over there, all I can hope to do is get to this stuff a bit earlier than usual for you, at the end of my day rather than the beginning, and we’ll have the usual fun and frivolity.
The plan is for in-game blogs on the Canada games (11:30 a.m. East Saturday is the first) and the normal game coverage.
I see the, um, suggestions of some sort of video component to what’s going to come from Turkey and all I can tell is I’ll give it a shot.
Anyway, if there are comments that get delayed tonight or if this isn’t here at the usual time tomorrow, it’s due to travel things, not any personal slight.
Oh, and, finally
Q: Doug, have you ever written using a pseudonym? If not have you ever had the temptation? Is this a common, or uncommon event in your field?
Steph G, Glencoe
A: Um, I guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag, I’ve been found out.
Perhaps you’ve read some of my previous work. Does the name “Hemingway” ring a bell? Toronto Star reporter, liked sports …
On a serious note, never done it and don’t know of anyone who has; we kind of have to take responsibility for what we write.
Anyway, that’s the end of the mail stuff for today but you’ve got ‘til I get on the plane this evening to get some in. Click here to do it.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).